There are strict rules as to what qualifies as an idea that can be patented. A person who comes up with an invention or new process does not have enough to go to the patent office as they must have something more substantial before their invention idea can receive a patent.
What is a Patent?
This is a document that grants intellectual property rights by the United States to the inventor, so they are protected from others who may try to use or sell their invention in the US. This also applies to preventing the non-patent holder from importing an invention into the US. There are three types of patents that can be obtained;
- Design: A new, original, and ornamental design for manufacture
- Plant: A new variety of plant that reproduces asexually
- Utility: A new and useful process, composition of matter, product, or improvement
If you are the inventor of one of these three types, then you can apply for a patent. However, you will need more than just an invention idea in your head to get patent protection.
How to File for a Patent
The first step is to keep careful records of what you have invented. This means that you'll need to have a notebook or some form of documentation the records the process from the time you first thought of the idea to the final step.
Qualification: You'll need to know if your invention idea qualifies for patent protection. This means it must fall under one of the three recognized categories of design, plant, or utility. Plus, you will need to be qualified as the inventor to get a patent.
Assessment: Your idea must be one that offers some commercial potential, so that will have to be assessed before you can apply. An idea that has no practical value cannot be patented, so be sure you address this concern.
Patent Search: Here, you must research to see that no one has come up with your idea before. If you find one that is similar, then your idea must be different in a substantial way for it to qualify for a patent.
File Application: Once you have completed all the necessary steps, you can then file a formal application with the patent office. You simply fill out the form, answer all questions, include required documentation, and they will assess whether your invention idea deserves patent protection.
Who Can Get a Patent?
With few exceptions, only the inventor can apply for a patent. This is to protect the inventor from having someone else file a patent, even if it is on their behalf. That person would be subject to criminal penalties in filing for a patent when they were not qualified. Of the few exceptions, the most common one occurs when the inventor is dead and their executor or administrator of their estate files for a patent.
Another exception is when the inventor has been found insane by the court, their legal representative or guardian can file for a patent. One tricky area is when the inventor cannot be found, a person who has proprietary interest in the invention, such as a spouse, legal representative, or company may apply on the behalf of the inventor.
If there are two or more people involved in creating the invention ideas, then they all may apply as joint inventors. If someone is left out by mistake, then they can be added to the patent as an inventor. This does not include someone who only made a financial contribution, just those who were part of the inventing process.
For those who qualify for a patent, it is imperative that you start the process quickly to protect your invention idea from others, so you can reap the benefits.